We’re moving on to chapter 2! As before, we’ll be breaking the chapter up into smaller, bite-sized pieces so we can process in greater depth together. Without further ado, let’s check out Proverbs 2:1-5.
My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.
This chapter begins with another exhortation to the writer’s “son,” which becomes a thematic element throughout the opening chapters of the book. As the text progresses, “my son” or “o sons” recurs quite abundantly and again reinforces the value of parental wisdom imparted to the children. Notice that 2:1 encourages the son to receive “my” words twice, but 2:2 switches to “making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding.” It would seem that the writer in this instance is able to draw a parallel between the guidance offered by our parents and the words of Wisdom herself. Is this to say that every piece of insight given by our parents is in keeping with Wisdom? Not necessarily, but it is certainly the case that the will of a loving parent is much more likely aligned with what Wisdom dictates than not.
Wisdom and understanding seem to be used largely interchangeably in this passage. Conceptually, this makes sense: to be wise requires understanding, and to truly understand something requires wisdom and discernment. The two ideas are very much intertwined. The same applies to “insight,” which is used in 2:3. Wisdom, insight, knowledge, and understanding are very much parallel concepts in the book, while foolishness is often equated with opposition to these ideas.
Where chapter 1 emphasized that Wisdom calls to us, 2:3-4 informs us that it is possible for us to seek Wisdom out ourselves. We can “call out for insight” and “raise [our] voice for understanding,” seeking and searching for Wisdom. Again this seems to speak to the common question of whether God seeks out His people or people seek God – both prove true in this instance. Wisdom seeks those who desire her, just as they will seek her out. This highlights a necessary idea for the reader to grasp: part of the reason we in Christianity will say that our interaction with God must be a relationship is because the biblical witness repeatedly demonstrates that God loves us and seeks us out just as we must love Him and seek Him. To truly love and desire Wisdom is to love and desire a part of that which is fundamental to God Himself. As we seek out the things of God, He is pleased to reveal Himself to us in new ways. As He seeks us out, our response must be to joyfully open ourselves to His work within us.
One cannot seek the things of God lazily, however. Jesus will use the image of “hidden treasure” to describe the Kingdom (Matthew 13:44), which He seems to draw from proverbs like this one. In Jesus’ case, He then notes that after someone discovered the hidden treasure, he then “sold all he had and bought that field” in which it was hidden. Consider the joy of one who uncovers something truly valuable! If one knew that there was a distinct possibility of finding some hidden treasure, would they not seek it diligently? Jesus knows the draw of wealth and prosperity and thus He uses it to illustrate the fervor with which one ought to seek the Kingdom of God. In like manner, Solomon exhorts the reader to search for Wisdom as if they were searching for wealth. To truly discover Wisdom is to find a treasure far more valuable than anything else we may seek.
Searching for Wisdom yields great fruit in due time, and the fruit of those efforts is “the fear of God” and “the knowledge of God.” The parallel between “fear of God” and “knowledge of God” has already been noted when we examined 1:7; to know God is to fear Him. This holy reverence at the knowledge of who God is cannot be underestimated in value.
I’m going to assume that everyone who reads this knows me personally (let’s just be honest, that’s the most likely scenario), so it will come as no surprise to know that my brain seems to release loads of endorphins when I discover something new in research, in someone’s teaching, or wherever I find it. In my field it’s incredibly obvious, but each time I learn something new, I feel as if I’ve discovered some piece of the mind of God which was formerly unknown to me. Consider the extraordinary vastness of the knowledge to be gained throughout Creation, and then think even further on the fact that everything we can know is so because God brought it into being in the first place! For the molecular biologist, every single new piece of data they uncover in a gene is there because the Creator’s hand was at work in its development. For the astronomer, every hint of light, every wavelength attests to the magnificence of God’s vast glory. For the philosopher, each grain of truth speaks to the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. For the theologian, the more we dig into Scripture, the more we glimpse the very workings of God’s own mind. This to me is the most incredible reality behind the work we all have to do throughout the world. But I think it’s also important to consider that these ventures into the mind of God are not all that have significance – the nurse who cares for their patients demonstrates God’s compassion. The restaurant worker ensures that those made in the image of God have their daily bread and are given the energy for the work they contribute as well. The janitor ensuring the cleanliness of any facility shows care for Creation and proves a good caretaker of God’s work. It is truly the case that every single one of us has some role to play in Creation, whether we acknowledge it or not. And each of us, even though we may not recognize it, has some piece of understanding which God has imparted to us.
However, we must also see that this wisdom and understanding does not come to us instantaneously; we must seek out wisdom from those who are more learned than we are. Ultimately, even though our knowledge most often comes from other human beings, the source of all truth is God Himself. This is very much in keeping with that which the early Church understood, including significant figures like Clement and Origen. When we seek truth, we will find it; we will find it because God’s desire is to make His truth known to us.
I see this passage as one which elevates the importance of Wisdom as Jesus exalts the importance of the Kingdom of Heaven. Indeed, the parallels here are quite interesting, given what has already been referenced in the commentary section. Wisdom is often equated with Christ, just as the Kingdom of Heaven is often equated with Christ because He is the One who ushers it in and brings it to fruition. Ultimately, everything goes back to Him because He is King of kings and Lord of lords.
It’s so easy for us to lose sight of what matters most because of our pursuit of what the world tells us is most significant. We pursue money, fame, importance, and a seemingly infinite number of other idols, but what we must pursue beyond all else is Christ. All else is worthless, a vanity of vanities. Christ alone can satisfy.